Despite its funny name, Badugi poker is actually quite simple to learn how to play. The game uses a betting structure that consists of four betting rounds and three drawing phases. One of the biggest differences between Badugi poker and other draw poker games is that each player is only dealt four cards in Badugi.
Badugi Hand Rankings
The object of Badugi Poker is to make the lowest possible poker hand. Flushes and pairs count against you but straights do not, making A-2-3-4 the best possible hand. In addition to that, players also try to avoid having any two cards of the same suit or rank in their hands. Hands in which all four cards are of different suits and ranks are called “Badugis.”
Any time a hand makes it to the showdown with two or more cards of the same rank or suit, the hand’s owner must discard cards until that hand does not contain any cards of the same rank or suit. For example, if a player has a hand that contains two hearts, that player would discard the highest heart and play a 3-card hand. The same thing can happen to players who have three or four cards of the same rank or suit. They will discard all the way down to 2-card and 1-card hands.
Players who have to discard may still participate in the showdown but their hands automatically lose to any Badugi hand. The same thing goes for players with 2-card hands facing up against players with 3-card hands. The hand with fewer cards always loses to hands that have more cards remaining.
When ranking hands that have the same number of cards, such as two Badugis, the hands are ranked beginning with the highest card and working down. For example, a hand consisting of A-2-4-9 would lose to a hand consisting of 3-5-6-7 because the first hand has a higher high card.
The two players to the left of the dealer must pay small, forced bets each hand. The first player to the left must pay the small blind, which is equal to half a small bet. The player to the left of the small blind must pay the big blind, which is equal to one small bet.
How to Play Badugi
At the beginning of each hand, the two players to the left of the dealer must pay the blinds. After that, each player is dealt four cards face down. This is followed by a round of betting beginning with the player to the left of the big blind.
After the first round of betting is completed, the players have a draw phase. Each player may discard anywhere from 0 to 4 cards and receive new ones at random from the deck. This is followed by another round of betting.
After that second round of betting, the players have another draw phase, followed by a third round of betting. That round is followed by a third and final draw phase and one last round of betting. Any players remaining after that last betting round now have a showdown. The player with the best hand wins the pot.